With a 5-4 record and an ERA of 3.82, Baltimore's Steve Trachsel is putting together another solid season. Very few people are surprised.
"He's a quiet individual compared to some other guys in here, but if the young pitchers want to watch how he prepares for a game, looks at video, goes over all the charts, they'd learn a lot," catcher Paul Bako told the Baltimore Sun.
"His consistency and his ability to make adjustments would be a couple things for the young guys to notice and watch and how he doesn't give in."
Manager Sam Perlozzo is also a fan of the veteran hurler.
"One of the other things I really like is his competitiveness and his work ethic," said Perlozzo. "If the guys watch him prepare for a ballgame, they'd learn something from him. He's very well prepared, very intense, very into the game. He doesn't have what you'd call great stuff, but he studies everybody and knows how to pitch, and that should be something they should all learn something from."
One good example of Trachsel showing his veteran moxie was when rookie pitcher Jeremy Guthrie recently struggled.
"He was visibly dejected hours after that game," said Trachsel. "I finally sat him down and said, 'If you're going to have success, you've got to let that stuff go.' That was the team he came from and he really wanted to do well, and he was focusing on that instead of pitching. We've talked about that."
Guthrie is among those in Baltimore that look to Trachsel for leadership.
"One of the things is his preparation," said Guthrie. "To see him watching the games closely when he's not pitching, he really goes through the lineup, figures out how he wants to attack it. It's almost like that's helped me. I don't have to do as much as him because I follow him. I'm almost able to take advantage of his preparation by watching the way he pitches the day before me. You respect that."
Zambrano's 'new season' off to good start: A week or so ago Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano declared a new season for himself, noting that he considered himself 0-0 on the year with the idea of starting all over again. So far, so good.
After tossing eight innings on Monday night in the Cubs' 2-1 victory over the Astros, Zambrano is 2-0 (7-5 overall) since his declaration.
"I'm 2-0 with my ERA is good," Zambrano told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Like I said after my last start in Milwaukee [a 6-2 victory], this is a new season for me. When you have great pitches and trust yourself, you just put the bad things aside. That's what I'm doing now."
In total, Zambrano worked eight innings and allowed just one unearned run, walked one and struck out eight.
"I just want to be the same guy I was last year and two years ago," he said. "I told you last time [in Milwaukee], I'm not injured. I keep saying that. For those of you who think I'm injured, my arm feels good."
In addition to pitching a gem, Zambrano also smacked his second home run of the season in the win over Houston -- the 12th round-tripper of his career. The Cubs record for career home runs by a pitcher is 13, set by Ferguson Jenkins.
"Not only did he pitch well, he hit well," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella. "He's starting to get himself on a nice roll. You all have seen him throw a lot more than I have. If he's throwing strikes and has good movement on his ball and his velocity stays constant, those are strong points."
Barfield finds his comfort zone: Cleveland Indians infielder Josh Barfield went through some struggles at the plate earlier this year, but told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he never worried too much about it after hitting .300 in five years in the Minor Leagues.
"I figure if you keep playing the game right and playing the game hard, the numbers will get to where they should be," said Barfield. "I'm definitely more mechanically sound at the plate, and I'm getting more familiar with the American League. I have a better sense of how pitchers in this league are going to attack me. At the beginning of the year, I had no idea. It was almost as if I was going to the plate naked."
That confidence has paid off of late, as his average has surged to above the .250 mark. He's also managed to keep his offensive concerns off of his mind when he's playing in the field.
"My legs feel good, and I'm learning our pitchers and their hitters," he said.
Burton loves a heavy workload: Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Jared Burton likes work -- and a lot of it. So while at one time it was a novelty for the Reds' Rule 5 pick to play in the Major Leagues, it no longer is.
"I'm past the point of being happy to be here," Burton told the Cincinnati Post. "I want to be a guy who can be trusted to come in, make good pitches and get big outs. That's my goal. I want to do as much work as I can and do the best I can."
Manager Jerry Narron wants to make that happen. "We're going to find a spot where we can pitch Jared Burton as much as possible," Narron said, "and the more he pitches, the better he'll pitch."
Burton would like that a lot.
"Always as a bullpen guy, you want to get your regular work," he said. "But there's a lot of guys down there. It just happens. That's why in between outings, you have to get on the mound just to stay sharp. ... I'm looking forward to getting back out there and getting in a groove again and getting some good outings under my belt. I just have to stay positive and stay confident and believe in everything."
Halladay the hitter: Who needs batting practice?
Toronto starter Roy Halladay decided to skip batting practice Sunday at Dodger Stadium, figuring that it really wouldn't matter. As an American League pitcher, he was not used to batting anyway.
"I went and bunted a little bit, but that's it," Halladay told BlueJays.com. "If you're hitting every day, you might get something out of it, but taking BP once or twice probably isn't going to help a whole lot."
Halladay proved that batting practice may be overrated after going 2-for-4 with an RBI, becoming the first Blue Jays pitcher to record a multi-hit game in a regular season game. David Cone, who pitched in the National League as well as the AL, went 2-for-2 in Game 2 of the 1992 World Series against Atlanta.
"I'm just lucky, to be honest with you," said a grinning Halladay, who was 1-for-29 as a hitter prior to Sunday. "I just kind of ran into them. It wasn't a product of being prepared or having an idea."
Halladay's first hit came in the second inning, driving in John McDonald and giving Halladay the first RBI by a Toronto pitcher Mark Hendrickson hit a home run in Montreal in 2003.
"It's been a long time, but it was fun to get the chance," Halladay said about hitting. "It's never comfortable, but it's always fun. I enjoyed it, just trying to get something over the middle and swinging."
Manager John Gibbons even got into the fun concerning Halladay's day at the plate.
"His next start, we won't DH," Gibbons joked on Monday.
Back in Chicago, Lidge also returns to closer role: The last time Brad Lidge was in Wrigley Field, he was told he would no longer be the club's closer. Tow months later, in his return to Chicago for a make-up game against the Cubs, Lidge was once again the Houston closer as manager Phil Garner plans to transition Lidge back into the role.
Garner will still use Dan Wheeler to close game in certain situations, but Lidge will get the majority of saves now.
"It's kind of, I guess, reverse circumstances," Lidge told the Houston Chronicle. "It's definitely been a good, long stretch, I guess.
"Obviously when we were here last time I was pretty frustrated with things. I wasn't happy with how I was throwing. I wasn't happy with being removed from the closer's job, but it seems like it's kind of come full circle now and I've been able to earn my way back to the role and here were are back again in Chicago."
Wheeler recorded a save in 11 of his 13 opportunities, so it is not a case of him pitching himself out of the role. Instead, Lidge has pitched so well he has forced his way back into the closer's spot.
He has not allowed a run in 11 consecutive innings entering Tuesday night's game and has allowed only two earned runs in his last 25 1/3 innings, covering 24 outings, since April 22.
"Honestly those two months were real good for me because I got to throw a lot and I got to really iron down and kind of cement my mechanics," he said. "So where I feel right now compared to where I felt two months ago is night and day as far as my approach to pitching.
"Mechanically, I feel locked in. I feel real good with what I'm going to be selecting with my pitches and just my approach out there right now. Mechanically I didn't feel bad at the beginning of the season but I was throwing that cutter. Just a lot of bad things were happening when I was throwing. Knock on wood hopefully good things will continue to happen when I throw now."
Fielder returns to familiar surroundings: Prince Fielder didn't spend much of his childhood in Detroit, but there is a little more attention being paid to Fielder as the Milwaukee Brewers take on the Tigers. That is because Fielder's father, Cecil, was a key member of the Tigers from 1990-1996.
Fielder is ready for the numerous questions that will be asked about playing in the same city his father made a name for himself in.
"It'll be all right," Fielder told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It'll be just another series for me. I don't really know anybody there now, so it's not the same. It's not the same team that I grew up with.
"It's cool and all, but the only thing that will be the same thing is the city. Other than that, it's a whole different team."
Fielder enters the series as the National League leader in home runs with 23, seven ahead of teammate J.J. Hardy, who is second in the league with 16. Fielder attended elementary school in Detroit for three years, but he is not sure if he will see any of his old friends.
"I haven't really kept in contact with them, so I'm not sure," Fielder said. "Hopefully they'll show up at the game and I'll be able to see them because I don't have their numbers.
"Hopefully some elementary school friends I had show up. But if not, I think it's just going to be fun to go back there and eat at the same spots I used to eat at when I was young."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.